Nanny to the stars and band and events manager Sally Arnold from Dartington has worked with a galaxy of celebrities and VIPs including Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, Pete Townshend and the Who, Elton John, Princess Diana and even the final leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev who she described as ‘‘very charming’’ ... and now she tells all in her new book ‘Rock N Roll Nanny’.
In the sixties women were expected get married, be a nurse or a secretary and Sally wanted to travel so trained to become a Norland Nanny. When she took a job in Paris looking after Jade, the daughter of Mick Jagger and his wife Bianca in 1971 her world changed. They eventually moved to an enormous chateau in the south of France where the band recorded the album ’Exile on Main Street”.
Sally continues: “We then flew over to Los Angeles and were living in a hotel which wasn’t easy with a baby. There were old fashioned nappies draped over everything...”
Sally says Mick was a sensitive soul: ‘‘At one point Bianca had gone off and nobody knew where. He was really unhappy and I sat with him on the stairs as he was crying and strumming his guitar. He adored her.
‘‘There was another occasion when Mick wanted to put a gemstone in one of his teeth. He thought a ruby would look like a bad tooth, an emerald would look like spinach so he opted for a diamond in his incisor.
‘‘The two of us cooked Christmas lunch together and Bianca thought we were completely mad. There were just the three of us seated at this enormous table which would have seated 30 people.
Sally decided to return to London after things started to change in the household and she got fed up.
Sally was then asked to become the first female tour manager working at a company called Five One Productions which was the touring office for the The Rolling Stones, The Who, Golden Earring and bands like that.
She found looking after most of the household names as no different to ‘nannying big kids’.
”Even the mad, bonkers Keith Moon (drummer with The Who) would obey me.” But not always, she explains:
“I got to know the Amercan rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd boys the best and felt like a mother to them.
“They were just wonderful, we fell in love with each other- a sort of mutual appreciation, equally they were very naughty boys.
“Once I had moved them into a five star hotel and at three o’clock in the morning the hotel manager called me to say that I must come over as one of the boys had throttled their cat and thrown it out of the window. Some of the furniture had followed…”
Then came the tragic crash on October 20 1977 when a plane chartered by the band came down in a wooded area near Gillsburg in Mississippi killing amongst others lead vocalist Ronnie van Zant, guitarist and vocalist Steve Gaines and Sally’s fiance, the assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick. She says: “I lost my fiance and my work. Everything gone because I was due to take over their world wide management.”
Sally went on to be tour manager for Mike Oldfield for his first tour, for Peter Gabriel and, after marrying a promoter, concentrated on the big events like Barry Manilow at Blenheim, Queen at Milton Keynes Bowl and Leeds United Football Club.
Sally then got divorced and became involved in the first incarnation of Comic Relief run by Charity Projects, starring Mel Smith and many of the cast of Not the Nine O’Clock news which was called ‘Fundamental Frolics’. She ended up producing the first three shows. Sally remembers: ‘‘A journalist asked ‘why are all the arts festivals in the big cities?’ so I produced the Nether Wallop Arts Festival in rural Hampshire. This was in 1984 with Judi Dench, Jenny Agutter, Rowan Atkinson, Peter Cook, Sir Michael Hordern, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Rick Mayall, Jools Holland and the list goes on and on.
‘‘Over four days we raised over £50,000. The name was then changed into Comic Relief.’’
Sally then did a few other jobs including organising the live music events for Classic FM.
She then started her own company which was called Sally Arnold Events Management.
Her first client was the late Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh and she did a huge event for him and because of that was named one of the Women of the Year in 1997. Sally then did an event in London for the last leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev.
Unfortunately in 2000 Sally got breast cancer. She became the first woman to get a tattoo on her mastectomy scar.
As she couldn’t work because of ill health, she had to sell her flat in London and initially moved in with her parents just outside Kingsbridge who looked after her while she recovered. She later looked after them as they got older.
The next project has been the book as the younger members of her family had no idea about Sally’s past life. She says: ‘‘I had loads of old diaries which had all the dates because I couldn’t remember it all and thank goodness for the internet.
‘‘If it was in the public domain on Google, I knew I could write about it. I wouldn’t want to give away too many secrets or be too personal about people but there are quite a lot of interesting stories in the book.
Sally has lived in Frogmore, Chilligton, Loddiswell, Salcombe and now Dartington where she loves the cultural life.
Sally has stayed in touch with the PA’s of many of the stars but added that some of the stars themselves could be ‘quite boring’.
Sally will be giving an illustrated talk at 2.30pm on Sunday May 7 at the Seven Stars Hotel in Totnes.
The talk is free and the book is £10 with 25% of books sales going to charity Jamming Station (CIC), a hub in Totnes where artists can connect and grow creatively.
Her website is rocknrollnanny.co.uk